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Those with neck pain may be referred to a neurosurgeon because of pain in the neck or shoulder or tingling and numbness in the arms. It is possible that patients may also experience some weakness in the arms or hands.
Neck pain may be caused by disc degeneration, narrowing of the spinal canal, arthritis and, in rare cases, cancer or meningitis. For serious neck problems, a primary care physician and often a specialist, such as a neurosurgeon, should be consulted to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe treatment.
Neurosurgeons should be consulted for neck pain if:
- It occurs after an injury or blow to the head
- Fever or headache accompanies the neck pain
- Stiff neck prevents the patient from touching chin to chest
- Pain shoots down one arm
- There is tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands
- Neck symptoms associated with leg weakness or loss of coordination in arms or legs
- The pain does not respond to over-the-counter pain medication
- Pain does not improve after a week
Pressure on the spinal cord in the cervical region can be a very serious problem because virtually all of the nerves to the rest of the body have to pass through the neck to reach their final destination (arms, chest, abdomen, legs). This can potentially compromise the function of many important organs
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Age, injury, poor posture or diseases such as arthritis can lead to degeneration of the bones or joints of the cervical spine, causing disc herniation or bone spurs to form. Sudden severe injury to the neck may also contribute to disc herniation, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, vertebral injury and, in extreme cases, permanent paralysis. Herniated discs or bone spurs may cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or the small openings through which spinal nerve roots exit.
Pressure on a nerve root by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in:
- Pain in the arm and neck
- Numbness or weakness in the arm or forearm
- Tingling in the fingers or hand